I do not wish to go on further about our feline friends in the Peaves household, but it is necessary to explain that our youngest, Kabibble, has an affinity for plants. To wit, she climbs Mrs Peaves' hybiscus. For that reason we chose to opt for an artificial Christmas tree this year. The idea being, as it is not an actual plant, perhaps Kabibble would leave it be. I had no idea what that decision would cost me, both monetarily and in terms of aggravation. First there was the matter of finding the right tree. Previously our Christmas tree buying experience was the same, year after year. Mrs. Peaves would find the most forlorn tree on the lot and “save” it. She called this act of idiocy “letting the tree fulfill its destiny.” I did not argue with her in order to maintain the general well being of the household and all its occupants. Purchasing an artificial tree was a foreign endeavor to me. Having no use of the things, I had paid no attention to them whatsoever. I was rather surprised to learn that not all of them are created equally. There was a vast array of pre-lit trees, all of which held no interest for me, as we have plenty of lights already. To make a long story short, I wound up looking in six different stores before settling on the right tree. Well, seemingly the right tree. I am no longer sure of that. To begin with, assembling the tree was far more labor intensive than I had anticipated. The process began with reading the instructions. I have come to expect assembly instructions to be overly confusing, as if the author's native tongue is something other than English. I am rarely wrong. The tree instructions proved to be nearly worthless. Sample a morsel: “Separate the branch panels according to color marking on the end of each branch.” I inspected the contents of the box and found each and every branch had the same color marked with tape, That color was white. Thankfully I also noticed that each piece of white tape was affixed with a number. I deduced their purpose and read the instructions further. “When installed correctly, the branch will pivot up and back down in a hinge like motion.” What in the bloody hell does that mean? I don't want branches that pivot, I want them to stay put. Each of the branches came flattened down to take up as little space in the box as possible, I suppose. Each required fanning out limb by limb, it was tedious work. Without aid from the instructions, I managed to assemble the damn thing. Then it was time to put on the lights. That's when I discovered some of our lights were no longer working. Back to the store I went. Somewhere, probably in China, some evil genius thinks up “clever” ways to package Christmas tree lights. The tiny hands of the Chinese children who box up the lights are able to braid the cords into a Gordian knot. My stubby Caucasian fingers cannot solve the riddle. Mrs. Peaves must lend a hand. Finally we got the lights on the tree. We did not use the tiny clips that came with the tree. We started to, but they were both stubborn and cheaply made. For every one that worked properly, two of them broke while being put to use. The most pleasurable part of trimming the tree is to hang the ornaments. In the Peaves home, each ornament is unique and has a story of its own. For example, one winter morning years ago, Mrs Peaves stumbled upon a mouse in our kitchen trash can. When pressed even now, she will explain how she saved the mouse from our cats and other perils by releasing it in the wild. It had peered up at her, as all cornered animals do, with larceny in its heart. She had interpreted his gaze as weak and helpless, in need of her aid. That Christmas I presented her with a mouse ornament. He has a Santa hat, a scarf and bib overalls and is holding a tiny string of Christmas lights. He's one of my favorites. Oh, for the record, Kabibble approves of the new tree. Having batted down all the ornaments within her reach, she is climbing it now in search of new baubles.

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